Suns face Magic out to end three-game skid
With just a few weeks remaining in the NBA regular season, few contending teams are as unsettled as the Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix's journey continues on Thursday in a matchup against the visiting Orlando Magic, which has lost two straight.
Phoenix has dropped three in a row following a four-game winning streak. The Suns are 1-3 since star Kevin Durant sprained his left ankle during pregame warmups on March 8. The 13-time All-Star will be re-evaluated in about two weeks.
With Durant sidelined, Phoenix has struggled to find consistent scoring outside of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. The pair combined for 46 points in a 116-104 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
Phoenix sits in fourth place in the Western Conference at 37-32, but the team's identity remains unclear minus Durant.
"We've dealt with a lot, so it's hard to assess right now," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "I think we'll be able to make a better assessment when we get Kevin back. Where we are right now, we're a team that can adapt. We still play hard. We compete every night. We have the ability to beat anyone in this league. We know that."
Phoenix has struggled to defend the 3-point shot in its last three games, and also needs more production from role players Josh Okogie, Torrey Craig, Ish Wainright and Terrence Ross. The group scored a combined 22 points in the loss to Milwaukee.
The Bucks closed the game on a 24-9 run with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way. The two-time MVP finished with 36 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
"He's coming at you 100 miles an hour, just lowering his shoulder, and any bump is a foul on you," Craig said. "It's definitely an advantage for him. He's just a tough cover."
Phoenix is looking to avenge a 114-97 loss to Orlando on Nov. 11, when the Suns shot 13 of 42 (31 percent) from 3-point range.
Orlando's four-game road trip began on Tuesday with a 132-114 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, who had a franchise-high 22 3-pointers and season-high 39 assists in the victory.
"It's definitely a tough loss," Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. "You really do have to tip your hat to San Antonio. They played their tails off and they brought it to us. This one stings. This one hurts because it's one that we let get away from us. But you have to be able to move on to the next game and know what you can improve on and tighten up our defense."
Paolo Banchero had 27 points and Wendell Carter Jr. added 16 for the Magic, who have lost five of their last seven games. Orlando is four games behind the Washington Wizards for 10th place and a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.
The Magic have lost 21 of their last 27 meetings against San Antonio, which shot 56.5 percent from the field and 22 of 41 (53.7 percent) from beyond the arc.
"We were just late on a lot of our rotations," Banchero said. "I think they did a great job moving the ball, not being stagnant. We were always just a step behind on the defensive end. They were making everything, especially from 3."
Cole Anthony is averaging 15.4 points in seven games this month for Orlando, which is 12-22 on the road.
Updated March 15, 2023